By Dr. Hanif Hassan Al Qassim
GENEVA, Mar 8 2017 (Geneva Centre)
“Our job is to provide an environment that unlocks women’s potential – one that protects their dignity and femininity, helps them create the necessary balance in their lives, and values their talents and potential. Given this environment, I am confident that women will perform nothing short of miracles.”
In every layer of humanity, women have made significant contributions to the development of our societies whether in politics, law or science.
Despite this, women worldwide continue to face widespread discrimination, marginalization and economic disparity hindering their ability to unleash their potential. In the very moment of our meeting, there are millions of women who are suffering from bad treatment, losing dignity for traditional wrong habits like, circumcision, honour killing and forced child marriage.
Women, in many countries are locked out from education and degraded from their natural rights. They thrive for economic and social equality dreaming of an equal role with men in the public sphere.
This injustice reality needs to be changed through bold laws, regulations and polices.
Empowerment of women and gender equality are key building blocks to harmonious societies built on the pillars of justice, solidarity and equality.
Promoting gender equality and unlocking the full potential of women can be achieved in several ways.
The Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 5.5 stipulates the need to facilitate the participation of women in the political life .
This ambition is in line with SDG 5 calling for ending the discrimination of women and eliminating harmful practices against women and girls.
In this context, notable progress is being witnessed in the Arab region to give women a voice as political-decision makers.
Several Arab countries are heading in the right path to achieve SDG 5.5.
According to statistics presented by the World Bank regarding the proportion of seats held by women in national parliaments , 31.6% of MPs in Algeria are women followed by 31.3% in Tunisia.
This proportion is higher than those of several developed countries such as France (26.2%), Canada (26%), US (19.4%), Russia (12.7%), India (12%) and Japan (9.5%) .
Iraq (26.5%), Mauritania (25.2%), UAE (22.5%), Morocco (20.5%) and the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (19.9%) also have a high share of women in parliaments .
From having only 4% of women MPs in the Middle East and North Africa in 1990, this number has now reached 17% in 2016 . However, there is a long way for Arab countries to take in order to bring about a fundamental change to address the injustice of women in legal and economic spheres.
In terms of the realization of economic and social rights, there are also promising trends in the Arab region.
According to the World Bank, the female labour participation rate increased in the MENA region from 18% in 1990 to 22% in 2014 .
The ILO study “The Pride of Working Women” suggests that working women in the MENA region are gradually beginning to enter the workforce in the region which is contributing to an increase in the work force in their countries .
Arab countries have also been following a positive trend in one of the most important fields for achieving gender equality: education.
In the Gulf States, female adult literacy rates increased from 56% in 2000 to 69% in 2010, and women’s high participation in tertiary education is growing .
In all eight Gulf States and also in countries of North Africa, women make up more than 50% of the overall student body .
These encouraging figures show that the Arab region is bold for change and is attempting to eliminate barriers hindering the participation of women in all spheres of society.
I am confident that further progress will be witnessed in the Arab region on the advancement of status of Arab women in the years to come. The Arab world is bold for change, and has reached a historical junction that make this change a matter of to be or not to be an integral part of the global community.
At the Geneva Centre for Human Rights Advancement and Global Dialogue (“The Geneva Centre”), we are fully committed to promoting the culture of respecting and protecting human rights in the countries that we have access to. We will keep our gear high in calling for more change with regard to women’s rights.